INDIANAPOLIS — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s forest service is investing nearly $26 million to ensure Hoosiers have equitable access to trees and nature.

A press release from the Indiana and U.S. forest services reports that the funding will increase “access to trees and the critical social, health and economic benefits they provide.” Officials also hope the money will help them plant and maintain trees in disadvantaged communities, tackle climate problems and support local jobs.

Indianapolis will receive the largest share of funding. The city landed $12 million in grants for the Indianapolis Canopy Growth and Resilience initiative. Laporte, Michigan City, Muncie, South Bend, Goshen and Elkhart are the other Indiana cities that were awarded $1 million or more. Indiana University also received $5 million to give to The Urban Green Infrastructure Resilience Cohort for Indiana’s Disadvantaged Communities.

The funding Indiana got was a piece of a larger $1 billion investment the USDA is making in nearly 400 nature projects. The money is also tied to Inflation Reduction Act and is part of a $1.5 billion investment in the USDA Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.

“These investments arrive as cities across the country experience record-breaking
heatwaves that have grave impacts on public health, energy consumption, and overall
well-being,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a press release.

“Thanks to president Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we are supporting communities in becoming more resilient to climate change and combatting extreme heat with the cooling effects of increased urban tree canopy, while also supporting employment opportunities and professional training that will strengthen local economies.”